Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Real History: Lost Civilisations of the Amazon

More evidence for low density tropical urbanism. Similar to what the Maya might have lived like and what might have also existed in Southeast Asia in the past. Either in ancient Thailand and Cambodia or Sundaland.

It seems that the civilisations that existed in these jungles and tropical savannahs could thrive because they were tending the environment like a garden similarly to how forests in Europe were not completely wild, rather a resource that was actively being shaped and managed.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Giant Sinkholes

South China is home to giant caves and sinkholes. One recently discovered contains an entire forest cut off from the outside. Scientists believe that it may be home to undiscovered species. 

What kind of creatures do you think you'll find within?

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings - 7: Journey Up The River

In the last episode I was attempting to smuggle Areca Nuts into he City of Pearls in exchange for the right to live in the city. However my companion and I were captured by Balzar, who seems to be a head guard or military leader of the city. We have 'volunteered' or press-ganged into being part of a trade and diplomatic mission to Nanbeg Gakwha a city of the Longhead people

Early in the morning we are jolted awake as guards drag us up to our feet and march us out of the room where we have been held for several days. We gather in the hallway together with dozens of others and then through further halls and courtyards until we are out onto a large plaza where we are again joined by more captives led by guards. All in all there must be a hundred people. We are led through streets along canals and over bridges towards the edge of the city to a great port where many large ships and boats are moored. This is where the great trading vessels embark for the spice islands in the East or to procure Jade on the Northern coasts.

There is a throng of people on the quay. People are loading and unloading goods from the water vessels and carts with various wares bound for the markets in the city or further afield. Craftsmen in docks are making repairs to the decks and hulls while women mend sails and weave and twist rope. 

The guards push through the crowds leading us along a stone quay where 3 galleys are moored. They each have double layered deck, there are what seems to be about 25 oars coming down from the lower deck and towering above, each boat has two masts from which hang massive triangular sails made of matted fibres.

There are priests making animal offerings while chanting, the smoke of incense is in the air and bells are ringing all seemingly to bless the voyage ahead. However we are unceremoniously bundled up a wooden walk way onto the boat and below deck and to one of the benches where we are expected to take up an oar in pairs.

We wait several hours until finally we hear the beat of a drum somewhere behind us, we are shouted at by some senior mariners to deploy our oars and push off the quay and start rowing to the steady beat of the drum. The boats make their way out on to the river and at this time of year the monsoon winds are blowing inland from the sea allowing us to make our way into the hinterland. 

I will treat the journey up the river as a Formidable Journey (1 Progress per Success) and will roll for the navigators giving them a +3 for Wits to add to the Action die. I will also track the supplies of the expedition as usual, starting at 5.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Formidable Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 5 + 3 = 7

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 9 and 7

A weak hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress, -1 supply.

The initial part of the journey is uneventful. The river is wide and slow and the combination of sails and oars allow us to make progress up the river. I can see out from a gap in the hull that we are within the hinterland of the City of Pearls, the villages, farms and gardens that we encounter along the river are under its sphere of control. In the late afternoon we reach a village and trading outpost that has several large jetties where we moor. We are allowed to prepare food from the supplies and then sleep on the benches or on the deck. Incense is burned to keep us safe from the bites and stings of insects.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Formidable Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 5 + 3 = 8

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 9 and 3

A weak hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress, -1 supply.

We've made further progress (2 out of 10) and lost more supply (3 out of 5).

We are awoken as dawn breaks and after some preparations we cast off once again. Despite the hard work we've been treated quite well so far. It seems that the captains and mariners want to keep us in good health and good spirits. As we journey up the river I notice that villages and huts on the shore become fewer in number and the vegetation growing up to the water becomes more dense.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Formidable Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 6 + 3 = 9

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 7 and 6

A strong hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress.

We've made further progress (3 out of 10) supply remains (3 out of 5).

On the evening of the 3rd day we are fortunate to come across some wild pigs on the shore which means we don't have to use as much of the supplies we've taken with us.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Formidable Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 6 + 3 = 9

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 8 and 1

A strong hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress.

We've made further progress (4 out of 10) supply remains (3 out of 5).

The 4th day is uneventful but I'm noticing only the occasional small village and more often there is thick forest growth overhanging the shore. I believe we are venturing deep into the jungle. 

Move: Undertake a Journey (Formidable Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 4 + 3 = 7

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 10 and 1

A weak hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress.

We've made further progress (5 out of 10) - 1 supply (2 out of 5 left).

It is the 5th day of our expedition and it seems that we are running low on food and supplies so we take the opportunity to set anchour. We are tasked to take some canoes to a pebbled shore to see what we can gather nearby.

I'll roll for myself as well as the others. 

First I'll roll for myself.

Move: Resupply

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(2), 2 + 3 = 4 

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 2 and 1

A strong hit: Take +2 supply

For my companions I'll roll with Wits = +1 since the average rower will not be skilled at finding food in the jungle.

Move: Resupply

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(1), 3 + 1 = 4 

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 8 and 5

A miss: They find nothing useful. Pay the price.

I'll roll twice on my Food Staples table and twice on my Fruits table: Plant, Animal, Mineral and other Resources of Sundaland

10 Yam 

2 Banteng (wild cow) 

18 Starfruit

6 Artocarpus fruit

Move: Pay the price

48: A new danger or foe is revealed.

We spread out and make our way amongst the trees, bushes and ferns. This isn't a dense part of the forest so there is plenty of light. I quickly find some fruit and pull down what I can, wrapping them in large leaves, but then I recognise a particular patch of plants. I drop to my knees and starting digging in the ground with my hands, sure enough I've discovered some yams. Just as I'm about to call the others to help I notice a rustling amongst the bushes ahead. I freeze and remain as still as I can. There's further movement and I realise it's a Banteng. I then notice another, and another. I slowly move backwards and then jog to find crew with spears so that they can capture the wild cows. I leave them to it while myself and some of the others start digging up the Yams. Some of the others have also gathered various fruits but I've been the most successful by far. There is enough space on the boats for the Banteng which we'll keep alive until we need them. 

We now have 4 Supply. 

I wonder if the new danger is an Animal 0 - 45, Humans 46 - 90 or a Monstrosity 91 - 100.

44: Animal

As we're loading our bounty on to the canoes we suddenly hear screams from beyond the trees, then several of the crew come running out of the undergrowth. A large scaled beast burst out into the open. It's about twice as long as a man is tall and reaches up to the waist, but when it rears up on its hind legs, propping itself up with a long tail it towers above us. It screeches and brandishes sharp talons with which it lashes out at us. I attempt to duck out of the way and get to the canoes.

Move: Face Danger with Speed, Agility or Precision.

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Edge (3), 5 + 3 = 8

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 8 and 4

A weak hit: You succeed but face a troubling cost. Choose: You are delayed, lose advantage or face a new danger. -1 momentum (now at +2 momentum).

I duck and roll out of the reach of the creature's claws. But it seems I've found myself separated from the others. Some crewmen are attempting to drive the scaled monster away with their spears but in doing so they're pushing me it towards me. I need to get past it in order to get to the river. 

I need to figure out what to do.

Move: Gather Information

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Edge (3), 3 + 4 = 7

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 5 and 3

Strong hit: You discover something helpful and specific, take +2 momentum (+4).

I keep calm and realise that the creature seems to be in a state of panic rather than having a particular aggressive or ill intent towards us. It's scared of the spears being jabbed at it and by being to it's rear I'm adding to its anxiousness. 

Move: Face Danger with Speed, Agility or Precision.

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Edge (3), 3 + 3 = 3

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 5 and 2

Strong hit: You are successful, take +1 momentum (+5).

It's splitting its attention between two perceived threats and when I see it's distracted by the others I dash towards the canoes. The spearmen start to back away and the creature now seeing a clear route to escape returns to all four legs and scampers off into the jungle.

Thanks to finding all the food and my close encounter with the jungle animal the crews believe I've been blessed in some way by the gods and spirits of this land. Whether true or not, it will help me stand out from the regular crew and might be something I can turn to my advantage later.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Real History: The Urbanized Jungle: Ancient Maya Garden Cities

This lecture describes what the Maya cities might have looked like and provide me a lot of inspiration as to what some of the cities in Sundaland might look like. I've linked to the 40 minute mark as that's where the useful information starts, the first section is all about LIDAR technology.


Monday, February 7, 2022

Beasts and Monsters: Veo the Giant Pangolin


Pangolins, also known as Scaly Ant Eaters are known for their protective scales (the only mammal know to possess them). They are solitary and nocturnal animals, living in burrows and hollowed out trees. They prefer to keep to themselves and will curl up if attacked by a larger predator but they also posses sharp claws and the ability to spray like a skunk. Wikipedia: Pangolin

The veo was a cryptid reported from the Indonesian island of Rinca, one of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It is described as a large animal comparable to a gigantic pangolin, and some cryptozoologists identify it with the Pleistocene pangolin Manis palaeojavanica.[3][4]

The veo was first described by the French naturalist Pierre Pfeffer (1927 – 2016), who took part in a 1956 animal collecting expedition to Borneo and the islands of Komodo National Park, including Rinca. In his narrative of the expedition, Bivouacs à Borneo (1963), Pfeffer wrote that an elderly Rinca hunter, who claimed to have once seen a veo, described the animal to him in detail.

Read more here: Veo and Wikipedia: Manis Palaeojavanica 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Real History: Ethnic Group in the Philippines Have Highest Level of Denisovan DNA in the World

The findings were surprising to the team. Previous studies  suggested that a relatively simple, one-off mixing event had occurred between Australasians and Denisovans, but these new findings imply multiple mixing events have occurred across different locations and timepoints. “In [ISEA], Philippine Negritos later admixed with East Asian migrants who possess little Denisovan ancestry, which subsequently diluted their archaic ancestry. Some groups, though, such as the Ayta Magbukon, minimally admixed with the more recent incoming migrants. For this reason, the Ayta Magbukon retained most of their inherited archaic tracts and were left with the highest level of Denisovan ancestry in the world,” the authors explain in the publication.  

Read the article here:  Ethnic Group in the Philippines Have Highest Level of Denisovan DNA in the World